Former TiCat, Eskimo Ledbetter gets 12 year prison term

FORT WORTH — Twenty years ago this month, Cody Ledbetter was a star — the winning quarterback of the Stephenville Yellowjackets who was about to have an outstanding spring on the track team.

Ledbetter went on to a successful college football career and spent time on a pro team in Canada before returning to Texas to become a high school coach.

On Wednesday, Ledbetter, dressed in a green jail jumpsuit, stood in a Tarrant County courtroom, facing a disappointed judge.

“I honestly don’t know if you don’t or can’t follow the rules,” state District Judge Scott Wisch lectured Ledbetter. “You’re like a child in a man’s body.

“The fact is, you’re not some kid in a Scout troop or high school student. You had specific responsibilities. You got a makeup test. You failed it, and you’re being expelled.”
Wisch then sentenced Ledbetter, 37, to 12 years in prison.

Sex offense

It took five years for Ledbetter’s case to wind around to this point.
In 2005, he pleaded guilty to having an improper relationship with a teenage student at Alvarado High School, where he was an assistant coach and special education teacher. The girl was 16 when the sexual relationship began in Johnson County and 17 when they had sex in Tarrant County.

He received 10 years’ deferred-adjudication probation in both counties. If Ledbetter had completed the terms of that probation, he would have had no record of a felony.

But as Ledbetter admitted during the two-hour hearing in Wisch’s court, he often violated his probation by drinking alcohol, missing appointments with his probation officer and, ultimately, fleeing to Canada.

Ledbetter acknowledged that Wisch had given him several chances, jailing him for 30 days in 2007 when he was arrested for drunken driving in Erath County and six days in August 2009 when an interlock on Ledbetter’s truck detected alcohol. But Wisch did not revoke his probation.

However, Wisch issued a warrant for his arrest in September 2009 after Ledbetter missed a probation appointment, the month after he got out of jail on the alcohol violation. Johnson County officials issued a warrant about four months later.

Fleeing to Canada

Ledbetter fled to Ottawa, Ontario, accompanied by a woman with whom he has a daughter, now 18 months old. Ledbetter came to the attention of Canadian authorities, and subsequently U.S. authorities, when she accused him of assaulting her.

He turned himself in to Ottawa police, which led to his extradition to Tarrant County. He has been in the Tarrant County Jail without bail since September.

The girlfriend and their daughter live in Oklahoma, he told Wisch.

Ledbetter said he moved to Canada because he was under financial pressure. He was earning $400 to $500 a week as a freight broker and had been ordered by the Texas attorney general to pay child support for a 13-year-old son.

On top of that, Ledbetter said, his girlfriend threatened to keep him away from his then-2-month-old daughter if he went to jail for yet another alcohol-related probation violation. He chose Canada because he still has friends there from when he had played ball for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Those friends helped him get a job with a contractor, where he earned more than $1,200 a week, he said.
Ledbetter said he used his earnings to support his family and intended to return to Texas when he could afford an attorney to handle his legal problems.

Asked by prosecutor Kevin Harris when he had planned to return, Ledbetter replied: “I don’t know. I hadn’t set a date.”

Harris asked Wisch to assess a sentence in the upper range. Defense attorney Shay Isham asked that Wisch consider the lower range of punishment.

The range for the second-degree felony is two to 20 years in prison.
Ledbetter must serve at least three years in prison before being eligible for parole. He still faces a parole revocation hearing in Johnson County.

By Martha Deller

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